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Nysa-Ppgu Pension Fund v. American Stevedoring, Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 30, 2013

NYSA-PPGU Pension Fund, Plaintiff,
American Stevedoring, Inc., et al, Defendants.


STEVE MANNION, Magistrate Judge.


This matter comes before the Court by way of the defendant American Stevedoring, Inc.'s (hereinafter "Defendant") Motion for Reconsideration of this Court's May 15, 2013, Order denying Defendant's Motion to Compel discovery on its unclean hands defense. (D.E. 66). For the reasons articulated herein, the instant Motion is denied.


A. Procedural History

On April 19, 2012, plaintiff New York Shipping Association, Inc. ("NYSA") and the Port Police & Guards Union, Local 1456 ("PPGU") pension fund, referred to hereinafter as "NYSA-PPGU" or alternatively as "Plaintiff, " by an through its trustees, filed the instant action in this District Court to recover withdrawal liability pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA") as a result of Defendant's alleged cessation of its contractually required contributions to the NYSA-PPGU pension fund. (Docket Entry ("D.E.") 1, Plaintiff's Complaint). Defendant generally denied Plaintiff's allegations through its Answer filed on May 31, 2012, and asserted various affirmative defenses, including the defenses that it did not completely withdraw from the pension fund and that it made all requisite payments. (D.E. 8, Defendant's Answer).

On August 7, 2012, the District Court held oral arguments on an Order to Show Cause ("OTSC") why the Court should not direct Defendant to remit payment to Plaintiff for interim withdrawal liability. (D.E. 19, August 1, 2012 Letter Order). After considering the parties' written submissions and oral arguments, the Court made a number of factual findings including the following relevant facts: 1) That Plaintiff notified Defendant of Plaintiff's claim and demand on May 1, 2012 (the date on which Defendant acknowledges having received the Complaint)[D.E. 23, Transcript of August 7, 2012 OTSC Hearing at p. 39, ¶¶ 1-4]; 2) that counting from May 2, 2012, Defendant's 90 days in which to request arbitration expired on July 30, 2012 [D.E. 23 at p. 42, ¶¶ 11-22]; 3) that contrary to Defendant's argument, Defendant's Answer did not provide sufficient notice to Plaintiff of a request for arbitration [D.E. 23 at p. 43, ¶¶ 1-11]; and 4) that having notified the Court (not the Plaintiff as required) via a letter on July 31, 2012 of its intention to request arbitration, Defendant's request for arbitration was out of time. (D.E. 23 at p. 43, ¶¶ 12-23).

In response to a discovery issue raised via a telephone status conference with the parties on March 13, 2013, regarding the potential expansion of discovery with respect to Defendant's putative unclean hands defense, the Court issued the following Text Order:

Defendant may file a letter brief (no more than 5 pages) by 3/27/2013 re: expanding discovery. Plaintiff may file a letter brief in opposition (no more than 5 pages) by 4/10/2013. Oral argument to be held on 5/9/2013 at 9:30 a.m. fore Magistrate Judge Steven C. Mannion in Newark-Courtroom 4A....

(D.E. 57, March 14, 2013, Text Order). Subsequently, Defendant filed its informal motion to compel discovery by way of letter brief, requesting expanded discovery relative to its unclean hands defense. ( See D.E. 58, Defendant's Informal Motion for Expanded Discovery on Unclean Hands Defense). Plaintiff opposed Defendant's Motion on the basis that an unclean hands defense is only available in arbitration and that by not requesting arbitration within the required 90-day period Defendant effectively waived its right to arbitration and by extension, its unclean hands defense. ( See D.E. 60, Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Compel).

After hearing oral arguments and considering the parties' written submissions, the Court issued an Order denying Defendant's Motion to Compel. ( See D.E. 65, May 15, 2012 Order Denying Informal Motion to Compel Discovery). On May 29, 2012, Defendant filed the instant Motion seeking reconsideration of the Court's denial of the afore-referenced Motion to Compel. (D.E. 66, Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration). Plaintiff filed a timely Opposition to the instant Motion. (D.E. 68, Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration). Defendant did not file a reply.[1]

B. Summary of Parties' Positions

1) Defendant's Position

Defendant argues for reconsideration on the basis of "the availability of new evidence" and on the basis that "severe injustice would result if reconsideration is denied." (D.E. 67, Defendant's Brief in Support of Motion for Reconsideration ("Defendant's Brief"), at p. 3). The "new evidence" that Defendant refers to is information contained in certain affidavits that Defendant attempted to present to this Court for the first time during oral arguments on Defendant's Motion to Compel. ( See id. at p. 3). According to Defendant, when the Court requested evidence to support its Motion to Compel, it proceeded to refer to information contained in two affidavits, but the Court declined to consider this information because the affidavits had not been previously appended to Defendant's motion papers.[2] ( Id. ). Defendant further argues that its failure to attach these affidavits to its motion papers was a result of interpreting the Court's Text Order, referred to supra, as limiting its submission to the Court to a five (5) page brief and therefore, in Defendant's view, proscribing Defendant from appending ...

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